Clouds on the Agile Horizon

Agile software development is an often misunderstood and misused term. In an exclusive new series of articles, IDG Connect offers expert insight and opinion on Agile. In this second piece, Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary, explains four steps to successful Agile delivery.

Is it a result of this recession that Agile has become a hot topic? Not as far as we are concerned at FlyingBinary. We formed the company on the back of a regulatory change programme for a UK Financial Services company. It is not for the faint-hearted bringing disruptive change to core banking activities. When that change involves demonstrating compliance across Europe you would be forgiven for assuming that this programme delivery was measured in years not months: in reality it was five months all together.

Traditionally fundamental change to business has required entire armies of both IT and business people. These large teams started with blank pieces of paper, created forests of documentation and wrote libraries of code. Today however, with nonproprietary technologies - not necessarily open source - and Agile methods, software solutions are built in months not years with small teams.

Today IT innovation is often delivered on a Cloud platform. Software is always delivered on a Cloud service to be "interoperable" i.e., it is built to plug and play with the rest of the delivered service. This is one of the key reasons why Cloud services are adopted. Once a company has moved to a Cloud platform, innovation can be delivered in stages ensuring changes can be flexibly made to the service delivered, the user experience commonly called the "customer journey" and the features available.

Although for our company Cloud services have enabled the Agile journey, the game changer has been the Agile process itself. Anyone who has ever delivered a major IT transformation program in the traditional way knows that the "human factor" ultimately decides whether a change is successfully delivered, or not.

We have defined our Agile four steps to success as Discover, Explore, Condense and Publish. These four steps encapsulate the process we use to deliver our Cloud services. Each of these steps contains activities that involve two-week "sprints" which can be rerun as remedial sprints if the scope of the step has been challenged as part of the delivery.

Additionally, we use a hybrid team of business people, Agile leaders and development staff co-located to deliver IT projects. Although it is difficult to generalise, an Agile team of six is commonly sufficient to deliver even major transformations to businesses. This contrasts dramatically to traditional IT deliveries where armies, often hundreds of people, would be assigned to deliver an IT project that would run the risk of a high possibility of failure to deliver.

Whilst it is true that Cloud services and web technologies enable IT innovation to be delivered quickly and at low cost, it is the use of Agile methods to drive the delivery and simplify the human component of change that is the game changer. The only bad news is that in an Agile team there is no room for ego and nowhere to hide, which will end a large number of careers; on second thoughts that is also good news!

By Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary



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